Australia’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ tilt may have come to an end, however the two-and-a-half-year qualification campaign and performance at the Finals in Doha will go down as the most successful in history.
During the group stage of the Finals, the Socceroos claimed two victories for the first time at a FIFA World Cup by defeating both Tunisia and Denmark, and last night were magnificent against a giant of world football, Argentina, going down 2-1 in the Round of 16.
The win against Tunisia was the first at the tournament for Australia in 12 years and the 1-0 scoreline was the Socceroos’ first clean sheet at the FIFA World Cup in 48 years. The Australians then kept world ranked #10, Denmark, scoreless in their final group stage game to qualify for the Round of 16, being the first time an Australian team had beaten a top ten ranked nation at a FIFA World Cup.
Over the course of the group stage, 19 players featured in games, with 14 making their FIFA World Cup™ debuts.
After playing all four matches in Doha, captain Mathew Ryan and Mathew Leckie now hold the record for the most FIFA World Cup appearances for an Australian footballer, with 10 appearances respectively, surpassing both Mark Bresciano and Tim Cahill.
The Socceroos have only ever won four matches at a FIFA World Cup in six Finals appearances, including two at this tournament, with this current squad winning the hearts and minds of a nation, which was evident by the scenes from live sites and gatherings across all four corners of Australia, the record broadcast ratings on host broadcaster, SBS, and unprecedented media coverage.
The Socceroos have once again united our great nation like only they can. Their unprecedented consecutive wins in the group stage of competition have triggered significant outpourings of pride and celebration around the country. This spontaneous pride and celebration have extended to all Australians, young and old, and across all cultural backgrounds. The image of Garang Kuol and Awer Mabil, two young men of African heritage, taking the field against defending world champions France, perfectly embodied the diversity of Australia, as the Socceroos have uniquely done throughout the decades and across generations.
Reflecting upon the Socceroos’ campaign, Football Australia Chair Chris Nikou said: “This Socceroos’ squad led by Graham Arnold have represented Australia and Australian football impeccably in Qatar, delivering the best result for our national team in FIFA World Cup history.
“The journey to qualifying for this year’s FIFA World Cup was a challenging one for the Socceroos, but on the biggest stage in world football, the Socceroos demonstrated the globally recognised Aussie fighting spirit and determination to match it with the best and make an entire nation incredibly proud.
“Australia is a football nation and the way in which this Socceroos’ squad has conducted themselves both on and off the pitch will attract new people to the world game in Australia and inspire future generations of Socceroos,” Nikou concluded.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the Socceroos qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM having played just four of 20 qualifying matches on Australian shores, with players and staff making significant personal sacrifices – which included multiple weeks in quarantine and abiding by strict COVID protocols – to help Australia qualify for Qatar.
Across the qualification campaign, 68 players were named in Socceroos’ squads, with 32 making their debut for the senior national team.
The final 26-man squad for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022TM featured ten members of the Tokyo 2020 Olyroos’ squad: Nathaniel Atkinson, Keanu Baccus, Thomas Deng, Cameron Devlin, Joel King, Riley McGree, Kye Rowles, Harry Souttar, Marco Tilio, and Mitchell Duke as the overage player.
Football Australia CEO James Johnson said: “The performance of the Socceroos at this FIFA World Cup has demonstrated we can compete on the world stage. I want to congratulate Graham Arnold, the players, including those which played some part in this campaign but who may not have travelled to Doha, and the staff for their efforts. You have made Australia proud.
“There has never been a more exciting time for Australian football. We will now use this platform to continue forging forward and grow as a football nation, with player development at the centre of this. Once again, the world has taken notice of Australian football and our efforts in Doha, will forever be embedded in the narrative of global football.
“The performance of our Socceroos in Qatar, leading into a home FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in July and August next year plus the Brisbane 2032 Olympics, will inspire more people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds to play the world game and create a legacy for the sport in Australia for generations to come,” explained Johnson.
Over the coming weeks Football Australia will undertake a review into the two-and-a-half-year campaign as the governing body commences preparations for the next four-year cycle, which will include the AFC Asian Cup 2023 TM in Qatar (to be played in 2024) and FIFA World Cup 2026™.
“As always occurs following a major tournament involving our national teams, Football Australia will commence a full review of the campaign and the senior men’s national team program including staffing as we enter into the next FIFA World Cup cycle,” James Johnson said.
“We also look forward to discussing our plans for the next FIFA World Cup cycle with Graham when he returns to Australia following a well-deserved break.
“This thorough review will take place over the coming weeks and be presented to the Board of Football Australia for consideration in the New Year,” Johnson concluded.